Pilot Was to Carry Out Strikes Against al-Qaeda Near Border
A 56-year-old Syrian Air Force pilot is described tonight as being in “not critical condition,” despite having had his MiG-23 crash into the Turkish countryside, and having sustained multiple fractures to his spine, and describes himself as having been “shot down” by Islamist forces en route to Idlib Province.
The pilot took off from a base in the coastal Latakia Province and was to hit a rural area in Idlib under the control of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. Syrian officials say they lost contact with the plane, but weren’t sure if it was actually shot down or suffered some sort of technical failure.
The confusion is because while factions like Nusra have some limited access to anti-aircraft missiles they are not generally able to shoot down warplanes with them. If this has changed, it might hinder several nations’ air campaigns against Nusra.
The pilot himself, who has not been named, had quite an adventure either way, with his plane crashing into Turkey and managing to find himself some 25 miles away from the wreckage when Turkish rescuers caught up with him and sent him for medical treatment.
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